COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — This time last year no one cared where Alissa and Adam Vander Veen were registered to vote. No one, that is, except Jeffery Weston, Alissa’s former colleague and assistant elections manager at the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office.
Weston sent two friendly emails to Vander Veen in January 2013 suggesting that she update her voting record to remove her former home on Espanola street in Colorado Springs as her address and replace it with the home she had just purchased in Pueblo West. Vander Veen didn’t respond. So Weston appealed to her old boss, El Paso county Clerk Wayne Williams.
“I went to clerk Williams,” said Weston. “I indicated the problem: that I thought it made our office look bad that Ms. Vander Veen hadn’t updated her record and that he might have some influence on her…”
According to testimony on the matter delivered at a hearing held last week in the offices of the El Paso County Attorney, Williams spoke to Vander Veen about her registration and she told him that she still considered Colorado Springs her primary home, even though she no longer lived there.
Months later, the Vander Veens voted in the Colorado Springs election to oust former state Senate President John Morse — even though they’d been living in Pueblo West for almost a year.
With partisan tensions running high and controversy over Colorado’s new election-reform law running even higher, Morse’s name had hardly been scraped from his office door at the capitol before Weston’s concerns became headlines.
At the end of October, Williams’s office forwarded its notes on the Vander Veen’s case to the District Attorney’s office along with notes from 17 other possible voter fraud cases. The D.A. passed Vander Veen’s case to the attorney general’s office, which was already looking into the high-profile instance of “gypsy” voter fraud theatrics perpetrated by the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara.
Attorney General investigators ultimately dismissed both the Caldara and Vander Veen cases. Caldara made a show of “moving back to Boulder” when the floods hit and people more or less forgot about the Vander Veens, who remain registered to vote in El Paso County today.
But Weston didn’t forget. Part of Weston’s job as a clerk’s attorney is to pursue cases like the Vander Veens’. He’s participated in four registration/voter fraud hearings — and the first one was presided over by Alissa Vander Veen, when she still worked for the clerk’s office.
“Normally [the clerk and recorder’s office] conducts these hearings,” said Weston, waiting for the proceedings to begin. “This one didn’t look like it was going to be brought, so I did it myself.”
There was no media crush at the hearing. Weston appeared as a private citizen and made his request that the Vander Veens be removed from the El Paso County voter rolls. The Vander Veens didn’t attend. Their lawyer, Colorado Springs defense attorney Matt Werner, spoke in their place. And because the defense called Clerk Williams as a witness, Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith presided over the hearing.
Weston argued that the Vander Veens didn’t own property in El Paso County and that they had signed a rider saying the Pueblo West home was theirs in order to get the Veteran’s Administration loan they used to buy it. He produced documents attesting to the move and to the loan. He noted that Alissa Vander Veen’s car hadn’t been parked outside her old El Paso county residence, just a few blocks from Weston’s home, for a year, and that the cars parked there now were registered to someone else. Mail for the Vander Veens sent to the Colorado Springs home had been returned.
Werner argued that the Vander Veens moved to Pueblo West temporarily to be nearer Adam Vander Veen’s son and so that Adam could attend a nursing program. True, the Vander Veens didn’t own the El Paso County house on Espanola street, but Alissa Vander Veen’s parents did, and they hadn’t granted the new tenants a long-term lease. Werner argued that the Vander Veens had as much right to vote in El Paso as do young people from Colorado Springs who are living in Boulder to attend university.
Arrowsmith is scheduled to make a ruling in the case in the coming days.